|A change in the way the provincial government doles out funding to homeless shelters is making it more difficult for shelters to successfully operate, says Dermot Baldwin, executive director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre.
Baldwin says, starting this month, the government has announced provincial funding will be given out on a month-to-month basis rather than a yearly contract. The lack of long-term, sustainable funding is creating a number of problems for the shelter.
"You dont know from month to month what will happen," says Baldwin. "Well live with it but
it makes it harder to run an organization. If you can imagine business running on a month to month basis
it makes no sense."
Michael Norris, a public affairs officer for the provincial governments Seniors Ministry, which oversees homeless issues, says the government is currently reviewing its shelter contracts and until the review is finished it wont sign any yearly funding contracts with homeless shelters.
"What were trying to do is standardize contracts and create some consistency," says Norris. "Its not something that either party wants to drag out."
Norris says the government plans to give annual funding to homeless shelters as soon as possible.
However, he couldnt say how long shelters will have to settle for short-term funding.
Baldwin says now that the Calgary Drop-In Centre is only receiving short-term funding, it will be impossible to make bulk purchases of food or cleaning supplies, which allowed the shelter to save money.
As well, Baldwin worries the new funding situation might make it difficult to pay staff if any emergency situations arise. Hes also concerned that the shelter might lose staff because of the uncertainty caused by lack of long-term funding.
"Were going to lose the best people in the field
because they dont know where they stand," he says.
"You need some stability, foresight and planning. (Funding on a) month-to-month basis doesnt make you sustainable."
Baldwin says the change "is hard to justify in a growth economy."
He says the government has the attitude "we put x number of dollars into emergency funding and now its all fixed," but Baldwin says homelessness is a long-term problem that wont disappear anytime soon.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army is no longer taking new patients for its substance abuse program because the organization can no longer afford to run it.
Public relations officer Major Gary Brown says the 44-bed program is in danger of closing permanently unless the Salvation Army gets a commitment of long-term funding from the provincial government. Right now the program is almost solely funded by the Salvation Army.
"The program is closed without sustainable funding. I think it would be a tragic loss for the community," says Brown. "Its a great program that helps change peoples lives."
Brown estimates that the Salvation Army residential treatment program makes up one-third of Calgarys treatment beds.
He says even before the program stopped taking new clients there was a waiting list to get into treatment in Calgary.